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Be Warned! Tuskys Goes Techno To Nab Shoplifters

TUSKYS chain of Supermarkets plans to introduce a facial recognition technology that detects faces of shoppers entering its stores as a measure to curb shoplifting. The technology, similar to FotoSwitch, a programme that was aided by Spanish biometrics firm Herta Security in 2011, has a system that scans the face of everyone entering a facility and the aisles to find the person in question. When one lingers by the door, a facial recognition camera quickly scans his face and cross references the image with a watch list of known shoplifters from the local police department.

It only needs just the slightest glimpse to match against a database and can recognise up to 20 or 30 faces in a crowd. When a match is determined, that information is assembled and mailed just to the person in charge of security at the store with details of the shoplifter such as a photo that was taken during their last arrest as well as other details such as their name, the nature of the crime, and where they stole from in the past. This information is instantly alerted to the store security through their mobile devices. The automated notifications can include a profile of the suspect, as well as a “corporate directive” of how to respond. All store security has to do is scout .

In case the suspect enters the store while wearing sunglasses or with something obscuring their face, the door would stay locked and wouldn't open for them.

Tusky’s chief operating officer Mr. Peter Leparachao said they have already engaged a biometric equipment and software provider, and hi-tech cameras will be in all stores by the end of May.

“We are bringing in facial recognition system to end shoplifting. If a shoplifter is caught in any of our stores, we will take his or her picture and put it in the system. Any time that person comes again, the system will beep a warning automatically,” he said on Friday after the launch of a partnership with Safaricom Sacco to enable members shop on credit at the retailers’ outlets.

The shoplifting menace has been a huge problem for retailers globally, causing them billions in losses annually.

Tuskys, which is the second largest local retail chain in turnover, own 52 stores spread across the country and it plans to open another 72 express shops in the Shell branded fuel stations. Thika town already has three stores in Tuskys Chania along Kenyatta Highway near the Gatitu junction, Tuskys Chap Chap on Uhuru Street within the CBD and Tuskys Supermarket located within Ananas Mall along Thika-Garissa Road in Makongeni.

Tuskys last year reported that it was losing more than Sh100 million annually, through theft syndicates involving staff and outsiders. The employees are accused of working with an external cartel that was allegedly clearing goods from the store and later selling them to retail shops in Nairobi and its environs. For instance, they traced majority of theft cases to the BebaBeba branch, located in the Central Business District in Nairobi where 91 employees stationed there were sacked.

“The problem has always been with our legal system because shoplifters and their accomplices are treated like petty crime offenders. They get a lenient bond when we take them to court, We also think the police are also tired because these guys are so many,” Leparachao said.

Shoplifting appears to be growing, and thieves are using new tricks to try and steal goods, creating a need for more intensive tools not only for surveillance but for managing a store in general, from staffing to presenting products. CCTV cannot be used for more than a basic general description of a person. It is a classic method for getting a glimpse of your suspect but it can hit a dead end if it doesn’t have anyone to compare it to – say a list of known or suspected shoplifters.

More companies abroad are therefore now looking at using facial recognition to keep their stock safe which develops facial recognition technology for multiple industries.

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